xiii + 220 pp.
£30 / $47.50 / €35
£60 / $95 / €70
The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew
Robert J. Myles
If homelessness typically entails a loss of social power and agency, then why do New Testament scholars so often envisage Jesus’ itinerancy as a chosen lifestyle devoid of hardship?
In this provocative new reading of the Gospel of Matthew, Robert J. Myles explores the disjuncture between Jesus and homelessness by exposing the political biases of modern Western readers. Drawing on the ideological politics of homelessness in contemporary society, Myles develops an interpretative lens informed by the Marxist critique of neoliberalism and, in particular, by the critical theory of Slavoj Žižek. Homelessness, from this perspective, is viewed not as an individual choice but rather as the by-product of wider economic, political and social forces. Myles argues that Jesus’ homelessness has become largely romanticized in recent biblical scholarship. Is the flight to Egypt, for instance, important primarily for its recasting of Jesus as the new Moses, or should the basic narrative of forced displacement take centre stage? The remedy, Myles contends, is to read directly against the grain of contemporary scholarship by interpreting Jesus’ homelessness through his wider economic, political and social context, as it is encoded in the biblical text.
To demonstrate how ideology is complicit in shaping the interpretation of a homeless Jesus, a selection of texts from the Gospel of Matthew is re-read to amplify the destitution, desperation and constraints on agency that are integral to a critical understanding of homelessness. What emerges is a refreshed appreciation for the deviancy of Matthew’s Jesus, in which his status as a displaced and expendable outsider is identified as contributing to the conflict and violence of the narrative, leading ultimately to his execution on the cross.
Robert J. Myles lectures in New Testament and Religious Studies in the School of Humanities at the University of Auckland.
1. Homelessness and Ideology 14
2. Displacement 52
3. Reaction 82
4. Destitution 112
5. Rejection 135
6. Extermination 163
Myles offers a rich and provocative study that is a welcome addition to the studies of Matthew that take seriously the socioeconomic and political factors shaping the Gospel’s production and the homelessness it reinscribes … [A]n important study that draws attention to an often-neglected dimension of Matthew’s Gospel. Warren Carter, Review of Biblical Literature.